Review: Eric and Ern at York Theatre Royal

I came to this show with some trepidation. How do you re-create two of the Nation’s favourite performers and make a success of it? Will it be a dreary imitation and an embarrassment? Well I’m here to tell you that the audience loved it and laughed throughout! I had a few reservations.

By Angie Millard

The show began life as a sketch, moved to the Edinburgh Fringe and was finally nominated for The Olivier Award for its West End transfer. It exists on two levels: firstly in memory of a great double act who were prolific in their production of comic material and, secondly, in the memory of present day fans who have learnt to love them via YouTube and TV repeats. Either way, they are a legend and the Stephens and Ashpitel show pays tribute to them. 

Many set pieces are on stage from the double bed (the innocence of which could not be replicated today) to the iconic red curtains and the sitting room sofa.

Ruthie Henshall plays the straight musical guest which was a feature of their TV shows, performing Send in the Clowns while the duo dressed as clowns make balloon animals behind her. Her serious performance perfectly frames the anarchy of the sketch.

The scenes are famous now and as such the audience at times recite the punch lines, adding  to the whole experience. 

Stephens and Ashpitel’s impeccable re-creation of these gems pays tribute to the script of Eddie Braben and the comic genius of Morecambe and Wise. At times, it was hard to believe I hadn’t been carried back in time to my family sitting room and was watching their new Christmas Special. But for me, many of the stand-up routines were a little too long and lacked the crispness of a TV cut. Comedy is born of the time in which it is written and I felt at times it lacked the punch of contemporary humour. However, it is a enjoyable nostalgic show. My favourite sections were the simple song and dance routines beloved by the Music hall audience. Soft shoe shuffles with a smattering of tap steps. I could watch those over and over. The show is on tour and worth a visit if you love the old style comedy routines.

Eric and Ern is being performed at York Theatre Royal on Tuesday 1 and Wednesday 2 February 2022. Eric Morcambe is played by Jonty Stephens, Ernie Wise by Ian Ashpitel. The Director is Daniel Clarkson, the Choreographer is Nicola Keen and the Lighting Designer is Zoe Spurr.